Offshore demonstration blade project aims to bring further cost savings

Jonny Flowers is assuming a leading role on the initiative at the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult
Jonny Flowers is assuming a leading role on the initiative at the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult
ORE Catapult test turbine at Levenmouth
ORE Catapult test turbine at Levenmouth
Industry Database

During November, an international team of organisations launched the Offshore Demonstration Blade (ODB) project to support the research, development and demonstration of wind turbine blade innovations, including aerodynamic and structural enhancements, blade monitoring systems and blade erosion protection solutions.

So, what exactly will the research work entail?  And what types of innovative blade technologies will the team focus on?

According to Jonny Flowers - who is assuming a leading role on the initiative at the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (ORE Catapult), which is coordinating the €4 million project - in the offshore wind sector, operations and maintenance (O&M) costs represent 16-23% of the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE), with rotor blade O&M representing a 'large part of this cost, specifically issues around blade erosion and blade structural integrity.'  Rotor aerodynamic performance is also a key component in reducing LCOE, with an estimated 1% increase in Annual Energy Production (AEP) equating to a 1% reduction in LCOE.

In recognition of the vital importance of this aspect of the cost profile, Flowers explains that the ODB project aims to reduce the LCOE of offshore wind by up to 4.7% by 'demonstrating a set of blade technologies aimed at increasing the rotor energy performance and reducing O&M costs.'

As Maurits Huisman, Manager European Affairs - Energy, Maritime & Offshore at project partner TNO, explains, after development each of the blade innovations will also be retrofitted to the ORE Catapult's 7MW Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine in Scotland for demonstration purposes - and following this phase they will be 'ready for deployment on existing or new offshore turbines.'

"Operations and maintenance costs represent almost a quarter of the total LCOE of an offshore wind turbine, with rotor operations and maintenance, specifically blade erosion and blade structural integrity, representing a large share of these costs. Therefore, improving the performance and operational lifetime of turbine blades will have a direct impact in lowering LCOE," he says.

In addition to ORE Catapult and TNO, other partners in the two-year project include CENER, Bladena, Aerox, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, Total Wind, Dansk IngeniørService A/S (DIS), the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and the Cardenal Herrera University (CEU) in Spain.

In all, Flowers reveals that the team will develop a total of seven technologies with the aim of running full scale demonstration testing at the aforementioned ORE Catapult Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine - as well as at a Siemens Gamesa field turbine.

"The project is developing each of these technologies through a methodology that starts with technology maturing, moves through to validation testing, before finally considering how the technology can be integrated into a full scale wind turbine," he says.

In the technology maturing stage, Flowers points out that the bulk of the engineering and design work is undertaken to develop the prototype systems specifically designed for testing on the proposed turbine.  Meanwhile, during the validation testing phase of the work schedule, the team will perform the necessary testing to 'confirm the prototype technologies have been suitably adapted to demonstration turbines.'

"Finally, the wind turbine integration phase considers the final system specification, and defines the installation and decommissioning process for each technology," he says.

As part of the project, Huisman reveals that TNO will also perform failure monitoring of the blade stiffeners through the application of advanced fibre optic sensors, based on fiber bragg gratings (FBG).  In his view, the solution will be a 'very robust and durable sensor system which uses state of the art FBG technology.'  Additionally, TNO will demonstrate an innovative and patented approach to 'detect leading edge erosion via the incorporation of humidity sensors under the top coating on the leading edge of each blade developed.'

"The data processing in combination with probabilistic modelling will produce input for a condition based maintenance tool.  The Dutch contribution to the project is part of the ‘TKI Wind op Zee’ programme, part of 'Topsector Energy' programme," he says.

"In the ODB project, we will also build a prototype and make use of a near shore wind turbine. The next step is to apply the solutions in offshore wind farms," he adds.

In the long run, Huisman believes that initiatives like the ODB project form a 'very important' role in contributing to a cost-effective offshore wind industry - and Flowers agrees that new technological enhancements in rotor design and operations and maintenance of the type developed in the project are 'vital in driving down offshore wind costs.'

"This project will demonstrate seven new technological blade enhancements that together aim to reduce the cost of offshore wind energy by up to 4.7%.  These blade enhancements represent a step change in blade rotor design and operations," he says.

"Technological innovations capable of providing a significant breakthrough in lowering the LCOE from offshore wind are vital in order to meet the European Union [EU] wide target of 27% renewable contribution of final energy consumption in the EU as a whole by 2030," he adds.

Looking ahead, Flowers also highlights the fact that the team is very keen to engage with stakeholders across the broader offshore wind industry - both in the UK and elsewhere around the continent - to maximise the impact of the project.  In particular, he reveals that a key project aim is to disseminate its findings 'through a combination of publications in peer reviewed journals, and industry conference presentations.'

"How each technology is taken forward will be driven by the results of the project - but in general each technology will seek to utilise the outcomes not just to prove the benefit of each innovation, but also to provide an evidence base for technological readiness of each technology," he adds.

By Andrew Williams

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